Saracens 36-18 Exeter: Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell prominent as Sarries return to the top of the table
England’s Owen Farrell led Saracens back to the top of the Premiership
Sarries overcame pre-match leaders Exeter by scoring five well-worked tries
Alex Goode and Billy Vunipola crossed to give Sarries a 12-6 lead at the break
Farrell’s fine try and scores by Jackson Wray and Chris Wyles sealed the win despite Thomas Waldrom’s two tries
Saracens romped to a deserved bonus-point victory against Exeter on Saturday to return to the top of the Aviva Premiership, with their returning England contingent proving influential as they scored five tries.
Sarries had only won one of their last four matches before the game but with the return of their England contingent, Mark McCall’s men were able to stamp their authority on the clash to secure the victory and leapfrog Chiefs in the standings.
Alex Goode opened the scoring as the hosts started quickly before Billy Vunipola crashed over to extend their lead, giving the hosts a 12-point lead after 33 minutes.
Chiefs, who were second best throughout the whole opening 40, though were able to reduce the reigning champions lead to just six points stand-in as captain Gareth Steenson though knocked over a pair of penalties late in the half.
And although Thomas Waldrom dotted down a brace for the Chiefs after the restart, tries from Owen Farrell, Jackson Wray and Chris Wyles secured the victory.
After a tense opening 18 minutes, Saracens eventually opened the scoring through Goode on his 200th appearance for the club. The hosts gradually worked their way up the field before the ball came back to the fullback and, although he fumbled, he showed quick feet to step back inside and spin through a tackle to wriggle over the line. The returning Farrell then added the extras to open up a seven-point lead.
What followed was a masterclass from Billy Vunipola as the colossal back-rower got Sarries second try. The 26-year-old showed the sort of form that drove England to the Six Nations Grand Slam as he resisted two attempted tackles through sheer power to force the ball down after 33 minutes. Farrell though this time could not add the extras, 12-0.
Chiefs captain Steenson did slot a pair of late first-half penalties to cut Sarries lead to just six points at the break, but Chiefs had been well and trully outplayed by the London-based side.
Saracens got their third try of the afternoon through Farrell after 53 minutes and it had been coming. Great lines and quick hands allowed Schalk Brits to pop a pass to the fly-half, who spotted half a gap and raced in just to the right of the posts. The England man made no mistake with the conversion, 19-6.
The Chiefs though replied with their first try through Waldrom after 58 minutes. The back-rower eventually got the ball from the line-out and powered into range of the try line despite the attention of several Sarries defenders, reaching out for his ninth try of the season. The wind meant Steenson’s conversion was unsuccessful.
But another superb attack, which went through several pairs of hands, allowed Wray to touch down for the bonus-point. Farrell then kicked a penalty before Wyles crossed the line to complete a fine win, although the visitors had the final word through Waldrom’s second score.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Saracens: Owen Farrell
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Duncan Taylor, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Mike Ellery
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Moray Low, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Max Bodilly
Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff